This past Sunday, I had a wide-ranging conversation with City Council candidate Ron Nirenberg. During that conversation, I suggested to Ron that the most likely partisan issue in the next two years is likely to be Mayor Castro’s ongoing effort to incentivize the movement of people and offices to the Downtown. That effort, in my opinion, is not supported by the majority of people who live near Loop 1604 because (a) they don’t want to subsidize people who prefer living Downtown, and (b) they don’t want to commute downtown for their job.
The Decade of Downtown may be a bigger long-term partisan issue, but Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio reported today on a short-term partisan issue that appears to be quickly headed for the City Council’s front-burner. According to an article by Loyd, Councilman Diego Bernal from District 1 is pushing an anti-bias ordinance that is surely going to create a partisan divide on the Council.
Anti-bias laws are becoming common throughout America in liberal jurisdictions, much like laws that enable same-sex marriage. Traditionally, all jurisdictions in America prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, and religion, and anti-bias laws extend the protection to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) communities.
Incidentally, Councilman Bernal appears to be attempting a cynical, crass strategy in San Antonio by including expanded protection for members of the military and veterans. Huh? Vets need protection? Members of the military and vets, if subject to any discrimination, benefit from favorable discrimination. There are a plethora of programs and benefits that are available only to military people and vets. President Obama just had a national conference with business leaders who were going to make an effort to hire more vets. When I wrote to reporter Loyd and questioned Bernal’s strategy, Loyd responded that even the San Antonio City Attorney did not know if there was currently a problem for vets. Why not then, if we are addressing non-problems, add “mothers” and “orphans” to the list. And policemen and firemen?
Loyd agrees that the real issue is protection for LGBT individuals and that will be controversial. Same-sex marriage may be the direction of the country, but it will take time for it to get everywhere. Further, an anti-bias ordinance is not as simple as same-sex marriage because they are several sub-issues that must be decided.
Councilman Bernal seems to be focusing on applying the ordinance to city contractors and sub-contractors, and he mentions the possible application to housing and transportation. When I was campaigning for the Council, I received a questionnaire from the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, and they wanted to know if I favored an anti-bias ordinance that extended to a broader list, including the following:
- City employment;
- Benefits to city employees, including FMLA;
- Appointment to Boards and Commissions;
- Public accommodations;
- City Contractors, and benefits to employees of city contractors;
- Housing; and
- Any non-city employment in San Antonio.
The consideration of each of these areas requires a balancing of the governmental interest in protecting individuals in the LGBT communities while recognizing the right of others to not associate with individuals in the LGBT communities. Four of the seven areas are easily disposed of. Clearly, the City of San Antonio has the right to hire the employees it wishes and provide employee benefits that it wishes (subject to the Abbott constitutional matter) without infringing on the rights of anyone else. The city also can control the composition of its Boards and Commission. And most people who provide public accommodations understand that their business is subject to reasonable regulation of this type.
The more problematic areas are city contractors, housing, and any non-city employment in San Antonio. Of these, the city contractors have the closest relationship with the City and thus are susceptible to more regulation by the City. Thus, I am inclined to say that extending an anti-bias ordinance to city contractors is reasonable, even though this is being quite pro-active and is a close call that would benefit from constituent input. As a practical matter, enforcement against small contractors would be difficult.
Housing and non-city employment do not have close relationships with the city, and some rental owners or employers may not want to have a business relationship with members of the LGBT communities. I think they should have that right.
That’s my two cents on the subject.